Thursday, November 24, 2011

open letter to vendors who participate in group-buy programs

Dear Vendors,

I love group-buy deals (those you offer through Living Social, Dealfind, Groupon, Koopon, etc.) but I don't love them as much as I did a few months ago. I've had a few experiences that have turned me off group-buying and made me dislike some of the vendors who have chosen to participate.

Here's my unsolicited advice for any vendors contemplating participating in a group buy opportunity:

Don't act resentful, frustrated or even surprised when I call to cash in on my voucher. You may be regretting your decision to participate or overwhelmed with the response but that's not my fault. And if the point of selling these things is to introduce me to your business, then making me feel like my call is unwelcome is not the way to start our relationship.

Don't complain about the low price you set for your voucher. It makes me feel like you're accusing me of pulling a fast one or trying to rip you off.

Don't sell more vouchers than you can accommodate in a timely fashion. I bought a voucher for house cleaning in early October - but the earliest they can come is January 17, 2012. I'm pissed off and our relationship has yet to begin!

Don't add on additional fees that are not mentioned in the voucher. It's not cool to make me pay a "sign up fee" or tell me that the group-buy people "forgot to account for taxes."

Don't treat voucher clients like second class citizens. Unless you've stated this clearly on the voucher, I shouldn't have to wait outside your class/restaurant/spa to make sure that all those who've paid the full freight have been served first and then get whatever is left over.

The goal of participating in the group-buy process should be to attract new customers - ones who will keep coming back. If the voucher experience isn't a positive one for everyone who buys in, then the vendor has indeed wasted time and money.

I know that the group-buy companies engage in some pretty hard sell strategies (I once sat in a cafe and listened to the owner say 'no' several times, in several ways to a group-buy salesperson) but if you've leapt, you might as well make the best of it.

I've had three group-buy experiences so far that have been delightful. Two were with restaurants (Foolish Chicken and Kinki) and one was with a local yarn store (Wabi Sabi). I was already a fan of the chicken place but this just reinforced my loyalty (and I bring lots of others with me). I'd not been to Kinki for years but the experience was so lovely that I'll go again (and again). And the owner of Wabi Sabi was so incredibly helpful and gracious that they've won me over (and I've been telling everyone else to go, too). Those vendors could give lessons to some of the rest of you.

So, vendors, think before you sign up with the group-buy people. And if you decide to participate, be gracious, organized, responsive, welcoming and fair. Don't make me regret having bought what you're selling.

Very sincerely,

a potential customer


Annie @ PhD in Parenting said...

I also had a great experience at Kinki, as well as at Kiddie Kobbler and 4Cats Hintonburg.

I've purchased numerous Groupons, Living Social, etc. for Aubrey's Meats in the Byward Market because I work nearby. I am a regular customer and know that sometimes you have to wait a few minutes for service and that if you want something special you need to order it in advance. This is not something that is specific to the Groupon per se, but I do notice a lot of people coming into the store that have purchased Groupons and that seem to have unrealistic expectations. They are rude to the staff and to other customers waiting in line if they are unable to get in and out of the store in 3 minutes. It is like they are looking for a Costco-like meat buying experience from a store that is designed for something entirely different.

Noah Berkowitz said...

thanks for sharing it.

Joanna said...

I am not going to buy any more coupons. I have wasted far more money than I have saved. I don't like feeling like I am paying too little for the business to be able to provide the service. I don't like trying to squeeze in the appointment/reservation because the business is over-subscribed. I am thinking of removing my email address from all those sites.

Thanks for this post. I think it is so true, no matter where you live.

laurie said...

I agree that there are some great vendors participating in the programs and that they also can feel quite ripped off by the process. However, I think it should be obvious to the vendors that they should aim to make the best of it and not leave potential customers feeling bad about the experience of doing business with them. I named three who did it very well and they have my loyalty and my recommendations to others.